Sudan protesters resume talks with army over transition
KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) — Sudan’s pro-democracy movement resumed talks Wednesday with the ruling military council over a transfer of power to civilian rule, a protest leader said, a move that could break weeks of political impasse since the military ousted autocratic President Omar al-Bashir in April.
Mariam al-Mahdi, deputy chief of the main opposition Umma Party, told The Associated Press that the Forces for Declaration of Freedom and Change were meeting with the military council in the capital, Khartoum. Earlier in the day, the FDFC had said it would not resume direct talks until its demands were met.
The African Union and Ethiopia, acting as mediators, had invited both sides for direct negotiations over their joint proposal to end Sudan’s political impasse. They said the parties responded “positively” but disagreed on the make-up of the sovereign council that would rule Sudan during the transition.
Talks on a power-sharing agreement collapsed when security forces violently broke up a protest camp in Khartoum on June 3. The military removed former president Omar al-Bashir in April amid mass protests against his rule.
Medani Abbas Medani, a protest negotiator, said at a Wednesday evening news conference in Khartoum that the talks would only focus on the leadership of the sovereign council.
He said the sides had agreed on a 15-member council with eight seats for civilians and seven for the military, which was later adjusted to five seats for the military and six for civilians.
In earlier talks, both sides appeared to be closing in on a power-sharing agreement in which the FDFC would hold 67 percent of the seats in an interim legislative body and appoint a Cabinet. But they remained divided over the makeup of the sovereign council, which would hold executive power for three years.
The talks come on the heels of massive protests over the weekend. Tens of thousands of demonstrators flooded the streets of Sudan’s main cities in the biggest show of numbers since security forces cleared a sit-in outside the military headquarters last month. At least 11 people were killed in clashes with security forces, according to protest organizers.
The talks also capped weeks of intensive efforts by the AU and Ethiopia to bring the generals and the protesters back to the negotiating table after a weekslong standoff that ensued after negotiations collapsed when security forces violently broke up the protesters’ sit-in.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called on Sudanese authorities Wednesday to lift restrictions on the internet and launch proper independent investigations into all acts of violence and allegations of excessive use of force, including attacks on hospitals.
“It is essential there are prompt, transparent and independent investigations into how all these people lost their lives, as well as into the causes of such a large number of injuries,” Bachelet said.
Over 250 people were killed since the uprising erupted against autocratic President Omar al-Bashir in December, according to protest organizers.
The military overthrew al-Bashir in April. Protesters, however, remain in the streets, fearing the generals intend to cling to power or preserve some form of authoritarian rule. They have also demanded an investigation into the recent violence.
Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of the military council, said in a statement that he pardoned 235 detained rebels from the Sudan Liberation Movement, which is active in the Darfur region. He said they would be released immediately unless they were wanted in connection with other legal issues.
Associated Press writer Fay Abuelgasim reported this story in Khartoum and AP writer Samy Magdy reported from Cairo.